By Jullie Yap Daza
AMID the Christmas revelry, tragedy. Rain, floods, landslides killing hundreds in the Visayas and Mindanao – but why must these seasonal disasters claim the same widespread, largescale deaths and destruction with such certainty, year after year, typhoon after typhoon, when weather forecasting has made them predictable? Fire, more unpredictable but no less dangerous, killing 37 people in Davao City’s NCCC mall, eerily the same number of victims in a casino fire earlier this year.
The unrelenting chain of tragedies provoked by man and nature awakened revelers to the fragility of life even as they wished for happiness during the holidays and beyond. Through the grief and sense of helplessness – a photo of the President wiping tears from his eyes said it all – one little story cast a beam of light. A 17-year-old girl by the name of Ica had gone missing from the time she was seen changing a P1,000 bill at a cafe in Muntinlupa on Thursday night last week. Three days later, on Sunday morning, she was found, safe and sound but “disoriented,” with the help of strangers taking selfies in another Starbucks in San Pablo City. Ica “was not kidnapped,” police said, she’d just “wandered.”
It was the best, best Christmas gift for her family, reminding all who love happy endings of the story of the return of the prodigal son and the shepherd’s delight at finding one lost sheep. The message of Ica’s lost-and-foundness underlines the meaning of Christmas in the Philippines: Christmas means family, families make it happen with such ardor.
If Ica’s “wandering” had gripped the imagination of the public, could it be because, at one time or another, someone in their family had tried to run away from home? Last year, I was coming down the stairs of her parents’ home when I caught Alli, then five years old, standing tippy-toe trying to reach the doorknob to open the door. Where are you going, I asked her, you don’t even have your shoes on. Through a misty veil of tears and in her best soap-opera “emote,” she whimpered, “I’m going out to find another family. Nobody here in my family loves me.” Oh, I offered her, would you like to live with me in my house? “No,” she said, regaining her poise, “I want to live in a big house, for my toys and dolls.”